Notes on Contemporary Literature

Articles from Vol. 36, No. 1, January

Basilisk Puns in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Late in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets [New York: Scholastic Inc., 1999] Harry pries a piece of paper from the petrified hand of Hermione. The torn page contains a paragraph-long description of the mythological Basilisk stating that "... all...
"Driving in the Reverse Gear": Alienation and Non-Linear Chronology in Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive
In Paula Vogel's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama How I Learned to Drive (NY: Theatre Communications Group, 1998), chronologies weaving throughout three decades chart the progress of Uncle Peck's sexual abuse of his niece, Li'l Bit. The play alternates...
"It's Hard to Be Human": The Ironies in Tennessee Williams's "Tent Worms"
Like so much of Tennessee Williams's early fiction, "Ten Worms" (written in 1945 but first published in Esquire [May 1980]) has been consigned by the critics to unjustified neglect or, worse yet, botched apprenticeship. Dennis Vannatta hastily concluded...
Reading John McGahern's the Barracks through Yeats's "Down by the Salley Gardens"
The sickness and subsequent death of Elizabeth Reegan, the protagonist of Irish novelist's John McGahern's The Barracks (London: Faber, 1983 paper ed. of 1963 First Edition) can be more easily understood through a realization of the Yeatsian intertext....
Robert Lowell's "Beyond the Alps"
In the New York Review of Books (September 25, 2003, p. 91) several critics offered both far-fetched and all-too-obvious explanations of the closing couplet of "Beyond the Alps," "one of Lowell's most perfect and impenetrable" images: "Now Paris, our...
The Sacred and the Secular in Clay's Quilt
In a telling scene toward the opening of Clay's Quilt (NY: Ballantine, 2001), Silas House has the novel's protagonist, Clay Sizemore, heading up Town Mountain toward the Hilltop Club, the local honkytonk. As he approaches the club, Clay notices that...
Toni Morrison's Depiction of the City in Jazz
"Nobody says it's pretty here; nobody says it's easy either. What it is is decisive, and if you pay attention to the street plans, all laid out, the City can't hurt you." (8) The fictional representation of the American city in African American...